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The Nigeria Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church, separated into two halves by the River Benue, is located in the Northeastern part of Nigeria. It began as one Conference in 1992 when it has its own resident bishop. The headquarters is in Jalingo, capital city of Tabara State of Nigeria.
The first foundation for mission in Muri was laid in September, 1906, when the Reverend Dr. C. W. Guinter of the Evangelical church, a forerunner of the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) traveled up the Benue River to Ibi near Wukari. Guinter had come from the United States with four other missionaries to work for Jesus Christ in the Sudan – a region extending across Northern Africa, south of the Sahara.
In 1946, the Evangelical church became part of the newly merged Evangelical United Brethren (EUB). Mean while, the British Methodists were having trouble in staffing and financing their mission work in Nigeria while still recovering from World War II. So in 1947, the British missions on the southern side of the Benue River were merged with those of the EUB on the northern side.
From 1923 until 1954, the EUB Church in Nigeria had been run by the Missionary Council. In 1954, it became the Muri Regional Church Council. The foreign missionaries were brought under the same Church Council as the indigenous Nigerians.
In 1954, the first indigenous leaders were elected. After pastoral training, the first ordinations of Nigerians took place in 1958 and 1964. Four district churches were also created in 1964, two on each side of the river. Today there are 69 districts and 750 charges.
At the United Methodist General Conference it was resolved that the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Nigeria would become part of the West African Central Conference as “Muri Provisional Annual Conference.”
Bishop Arthur F. Kulah of the Liberia Annual Conference was appointed as Itinerant Bishop to Nigeria from 1984 to 1988 and 2008 -2012. In 1989, he was replaced by Bishop Thomas S. Bangura of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference. Finally, in May 1992, Nigeria became a full Annual Conference, and on August 14, Dr. Done Peter Dabale was elected as its first Resident Bishop.
In 1989, the church established its theological seminary at Banyam to prepare students for ministerial work and degree programs at other theological seminaries. The Kakulu Bible Institute in Zing and the Didango Bible School met our demands of evangelists.
An evangelical program in our Church is at work establishing new churches and directing annual workshops and courses for the clergy and evangelists.
The church sponsors programs in agriculture, rural health, rural development, women’s work, youth technical training, Empower Women, Evangelism, Orphanage Home, Primary and Secondary Schools e.t.c. We have been able to work harmoniously both at home and abroad for the success of church growth and development in Nigeria.
The United Methodist Church in Nigeria is fast growing. A brief overview of the historical movement of the United Methodism in Nigeria reveals that from 1984 –2018 the church has maintained a steady membership growth of more than 15% annually. Between this period the United Method Methodist Church has grown in Nigeria from: one Muri Provisional Annual Conference to Four Annual Conferences, from 28 pastors to 785 pastors, from 15 districts and 180 charges to 69 districts and 900 charges with about 162 preaching centers, from 145,000 membership statistic to 742,652professing membership statistic in 2018. Looking at 2020 – 2030 we are projecting 18% Annual growth which by 2030 we are going to have 2, 079,425 professing membership growth.
An analysis of the geographical demography of Nigeria provides with some interesting facts that made the above projection possible. Nigeria is situated on the western coast of Africa sharing its border with the North Atlantic Ocean, between Benin and Cameroon. It covers an area of 923, 768 km. Different religious accumulations have resided in the land of Nigeria many years ago, however Islamic religion continues to pre-dominates the northern part of the country and Christianity dominate the south and south-eastern part of Nigeria. Nigeria is a country of about 190 million people. The United Nation Organization has estimated that Nigeria is one of the populous countries in the African continent.
By estimates, Nigeria’s fast-growing and youthful population is providing a dynamism for Evangelism in the country specifically in the Northern region.For example,at the end of last year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that Nigeria’s population is now estimated to have surpassed 193 million, significantly exceeding the earlier U.N. projection of 187 million in 2016. In other words, the U.N.’s much-publicized forecast that Nigeria will overtake the United States as the world’s third-most populous nation by 2050 will likely happen much sooner than that. Add to the fact that Nigeria’s fertility rate is 5.13 children per woman, compared with 1.87 per woman in the United States. This is a strong factor to the projected membership of the Nigeria Episcopal Area by 2030.
Given the Nigerian covered land area and the growing national population, making it three to four times other African countries put together. This has gave Nigeria her vaunted status as the ordained “Giant of Africa”.
The current religio-political and socio-economic situation in Nigeria is serving as a clarion call for the United Methodist Church in Nigeria and its international partners to use this opportunity by coming up with plans that will boost the growth of United Methodism in Nigeria by 2030.
Nigeria is a country with 36 States plus the Federal Capital Territory. More than 70% of the United Methodists in Nigeria lived in the Northeastern part of Nigeria, in States like Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Yobe, Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Niger and Plateau making the remaining parts of the country a potential ground for the growth of The United Methodist Church in Nigeria. There are also potential international areas of growth in Chad Republic, Niger Republic and parts of Cameroon republic that shares border with Nigeria. In summary, the following factors will necessitate the above projection by 2030:
- Rapid population growth.
- Live impacting programs of The United Methodist Church for example Evangelism and Social Services.
- Frequent Boko Haram and tribal crises is prompting migration from neighboring countries in Nigeria.
- And the revive interest of young people in the Church is signaling a bright future for United Methodism in Nigeria.